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Think Out Loud

Summer Struggles

Pete Springer/OPB

How do low-income families deal with the unique challenges that summer presents?

School let out over a month ago, and for many kids that means summer camp and swimming lessons, but for families who can’t afford camp or daycare, the summer can intensify the daily struggle to keep kids safe, entertained, and well-fed while their parents work.

Studies have shown that kids who engage in stimulating summer activities are less affected by the “summer slide” that finds kids’ test scores dropping — and obesity rates rising — when school’s out. Financial and logistical barriers often prevent kids from low-income families from attending summer programs.

Through the federally-funded Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), school districts, churches, and parks across the state provide free lunches for kids and parents. Other community organizations and childcare centers offer low-cost options for daily supervision and a range of activities. But the Oregon SFSP estimated that in 2005, only about one quarter of eligible children participate in the lunch program. Where does the responsibility for kids’ summer childcare lie? How do low-income families deal with the unique challenges that summer presents? What are programs like the SFSP doing well, and how can they improve? What would be a good way to encourage more families to take advantage of these programs? If you’re a parent, what do your kids do in the summertime? What childcare challenges do you anticipate as the weather gets warmer?


Photo credit: Todd Baker / Flickr / Creative Commons

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